Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Making the cabinet...

 Yesterday I showed the cabinet my husband made for me and how I filled it with family treasures HERE. So today, I wanted to share how he made "something from nothing" using a tree, reclaimed and scrap wood. 
He was really excited when I talked to him about making it for me until I told him I wanted to use the walnut tree my dad had cut and had milled into rough boards. These boards had been sitting in my dad's garage for at least 20 years. That means they were warped, dry and not that easy to work with. Did I mention my husband is patient and a perfectionist? 

He first designed the cabinet based on an old rule of proportion called the "Golden Ratio." 

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He started planing the boards with our Delta planer. Oh how I wish I had this when I made my dining table. I used a handheld electric planer for that, and this is so much better. Little did I know he also really needed a jointer for this project, which we don't have, but he made it all work somehow. 

He put this part together and it sat in the garage for at least a year because we didn't have enough scrap wood. Finally, he ended up with some birch plywood for the back and shelves then brought it in to assemble so I could finish it. 

Because we ran out of useable walnut, I decided to use this wormy chestnut trim my grandfather had taken out of their house when it was torn down. I wanted to make sure I could match the stains. I think this board was propped up against the wall for three months at least in hopes of keeping the project going.

I used Minwax Wood Finish in Dark Walnut. I love it and use that color a lot in combination with other colors. As much as I love water-based stains, I have found that only oil-based stains work for a really dark, rich color.

Oh how happy I was with the color:-)

Luis then added wormy chestnut trim to the top and middle.

He had some help from Cristian...

Then, the cabinet sat for about a year and a half just open with no doors. I finally settled on accessorizing it like the country store my grandfather owned. 

But it sometimes looked like a black hole in the corner, so I found some sweet pink, floral shelf paper in my parent's basement and lined the back with it. What a difference that made, but I still wanted doors:-)

Here is where being patient makes such a difference. I originally wanted this cabinet to have glass shelves and mirrored backing. Really. Thank goodness it took almost three years.

Finally, I chose enough wood for Luis to start the doors. Again, he had to rip these board to the right size, then plane to the right thickness. 

He cut the grooves for the panel inserts with the table saw, which is not the easiest way. It would have been easier with the router, but we don't have it mounted to a router table, so he could not do it that way.  He also did a mortise and tenon joint with the table saw-- again, not the easiest way. 

Wood panels from my dad's scrap plywood were fitted into the frames and glued.

Because I wanted this cabinet to actually look like an antique, not something just made from reclaimed wood, I used a chisel and hand planer to round and distress the edges. This is also how I distress the boxes that we make. Sharp edges are like un-ironed seams on sewing projects. They look "home-made" and that is not the look I was going for. 

I used the same dark walnut stain and with a couple of coats was able to get the color just perfect and working alongside the walnut. I did add a coat of Minwax finishing paste wax at the end. 

I LOVE, love, love this part. There is something rewarding about staining a beautiful piece of wood and bringing out the grain and depth it has. 

I could not be more pleased with the color, finish and the overall look. 

The finish looks like a cabinet of my great grandmother's that is more than 100 years old. 

If you are not familiar with this wood, wormy chestnut, according to the Wood Database (HERE),  comes from American Chestnut trees that were killed by the chestnut blight of the early 1900s. 
"The trees, which were damaged by insects, leaving holes and discoloration in the standing trees were harvested and converted into lumber.
Because of the blight wiping out nearly all mature American Chestnut trees, its lumber is both rare and valuable. Wormy Chestnut in particular is usually salvaged from old barns and other structures, and reprocessed and sold as reclaimed lumber."

After installing the bottom doors, Luis made frames for the top doors to which I added glass inserts. 

I chose black hinges and crystal pulls to give it some sparkle. 
You can see how I accessorized it and the "beauty" shots HERE

I could not be more excited about a piece of furniture. Both of us just stand in the dining area and look at it. We love the combination of simple clean lines with the rich, detailed wood. 

It is so special not only because we used what we had, but because it represents five generations of my family from the wood in my great grandfather's house that my grandfather lovingly bundled and saved, to my dad's walnut tree and finally to Luis putting it all together with Cristian's help. 

I wouldn't trade it for the nicest piece Ethan Allen offers. 


I'll be joining:


  1. WOW! I am stunned!! SO beautiful! And knowing it represents five generations makes it even more special. Truly a cherished family heirloom. Your husband does amazing work. Thanks for sharing Anita.

  2. It is stunning, and I can see your little one is totally proud of his father and may be inspired one day himself to do that type of work. Your post was so nice, I enjoyed it very much!

  3. Your cabinet is so special in so many ways. That wood grain is amazing and I love how you styled it! You all did a great job on it.

  4. This really is a project of love, Anita. It turned out beautifully and is filled with so many family treasures. A piece to take great pride in! Luis did a wonderful job (with Christian's help of course). I love all the memorabilia inside it too. Beautiful!

  5. It warms my heart that you, too, love WOOD and NOT painted wood that I see all over blogland. I feel so bad when someone takes a beautiful wood piece and paints it. This piece is a treasure for you now and will continue to be for MORE generations to come! XO, Pinky

  6. This makes me weep sweet sweet tears. Your family heritage all rolled into one beautiful corner hutch. Magnificent! Thanks for sharing the journey of this incredible treasure. Cherry Kay

  7. That is seriously amazing!!! He did a wonderful job building it Anita and you did a wonderful job giving it life. You two make the perfect team for sure! :-)

  8. What a fabulous piece Anita!! A true treasure for sure. I would not trade it either.

  9. What an amazing husband you have!!! He is so talented and looks like he had a great little helper too! And you of course, Anita!! :-) What a cherished piece that will bring joy to you every time you look at it!


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